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I would like to make a table leg's bottom face flat and square with the sides, using handtools.

I have drawn my knife line around the four faces for my desired length, and then proceeded to handsaw as close to my line as my skill level would allow, keeping a safety margin.

The bottom face's area (2.75" x 2.75") is too large to use with a handplane shooting board, so I've resorted to sanding with a block, but the sanding tends to eat away at the edges faster than the center, resulting in a slighly round bottom.

I'm wondering if it's one of those things which is solved with more sawing skill, or just a trip to the circular saw bench (which I don't have access to).

beefy table leg High res link

Edit after trying out planing -- block plane works quite well. no sanding.

I've obtained satisfactory results by following the advice presented in the answers. Planing, backed by a sacrificial piece, achieves satisfactory results.

I First tried with a bench plane (#4), which allowed okay results, but it is a bit clumsy to balance on a surface this small. It really helped to attack the edge of the piece holding the plane at a diagonal angle w.r.t. the direction of motion (i.e. so that when you make a new pass, only one point along the iron's edge is in contact with the edge of the workpiece). This way the plane gets a better chance to slice in, rather than just stop at once as soon as the iron bites.

diagonal angle with bench plane High res link

Left: illustrates the diagonal passes I mention. That image is flawed in the sense that it's missing a sacrificial piece (image is from how-to-use-a-bench-plane-to-plane-end-grain). Right: bare-bones setup on a workmate

When returning the plane to take a new pass, the throat's opening would sometimes catch into the unsupported sides (opposite to the sacrificial piece), so I've lost some small/medium chips along the front edge and corners. Closing the throat of the plane by moving the frog forward helped minimize that. It's not a setting I usually play with, but it helped in this case.

Breakout with bench plane: breakout with bench plane (I'll put a chamfer on the corners, so it won't be too visible)

Then I switched over to a small block plane, which was much easier to handle. With diagonal passes, and a well-sharpened iron, I was able to produce very fine shavings. Like with the bench plane, I closed the throat as much as possible.

With block plane: block plane - fine shavings High res link

It's more difficult to plane to a true-flat with the smaller block plane, but I would go down to my scribed line on one side, then turn the next face over in my vise and repeat. This would get the four edges to be on the same geometric-plane (assuming the layout is correct). To eliminate any remaining convex profile (i.e. belly in center), I finished with circular motions focused around the center point, until I reached the same height as the edges.

The block plane (with a well sharpened iron) is quite satisfying to use, and gets me on the line, without any sanding required.

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    A hundred times yes on @MartinBonner's Answer. This is a job for a hand plane if doing the work by hand. When planing you may need to concentrate effort in the centre to not end up with the centre slightly domed, this planing in the middle will tend to make the end grain surface a bit ugly but don't worry about that as nobody will ever see it. Hone your plane's iron frequently for best results! – Graphus Jun 4 '18 at 16:23
  • Late though, I wanted to add there are other ways of doing this even by hand, e.g. you could use a slick if you had one. Using hand-held power tools there are a few options, the top two I think are a belt sander (with quite a coarse belt fitted, 80 grit at finest) and a router set up to 'plane' the end as slabs are done — excluding setup this is the fastest method by far. – Graphus Jun 4 '18 at 16:37
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    When you say you were using diagonal passes, were you planing straight but across the diagonal of the leg, or did you have the plane at an angle to the direction of motion (skew planing)? – Graphus Jun 18 '18 at 12:32
  • admittedly, ambiguous. I meant with respect to the direction of motion -- I've added an image which should clarify. I'm not familiar with slicks. I can't find much info on "skew planing" but I suspect it is what I have illustrated. – ww_init_js Jun 21 '18 at 18:13
  • Thanks for the clarification. Reason I asked is planing diagonally across the end of a leg isn't inherently of benefit, because the grain of the leg can be in a good or bad direction just at random (and can vary in the one piece of wood from place to place). But skewing the plane is very beneficial and is very commonly done. What happens when you skew a plane to the direction of motion isn't obvious but it lowers the effective angle of the cutting edge, which reduces resistance. – Graphus Jun 21 '18 at 18:26
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It looks to me like you've got about a 1mm of wood to remove. Hand sanding is going to take forever to remove that much wood.

Clamp a piece of end-grain to the back face of the leg, and then use your hand plane. The problem though, is that planing will have the same tendency to go at the edges rather than the centre too. The solution is better hand-saw skills, or machinery: sorry.

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    tried it out, trial and error. posted results in answer. worked quite well. if you can complement your answer with additional tips on planing end grain (or a link to another question/answer), that would surely be appreciated. – ww_init_js Jun 18 '18 at 0:51
  • @init_js For future reference: the convention for answering your own question is to create your own answer. This is entirely acceptable, and allows people to comment and vote separately on the question and on the answer. (You can "accept" your own answer, but FAOD, you don't get the rep from it if you do!) – Martin Bonner Jun 28 '18 at 14:18

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